When your father is a god, your life is bound to be pretty interesting. As a result, it is never less than astonishing how often the story of Hercules ignores the rich source material, transplanting the demigod to whatever environment is currently in vogue with diminished results. Twice this year, we were treated to variant interpretations of the Greek myth with vastly different results. Coming in second and by far the inferior of the two, Brett Ratner’s Hercules is one of the weakest films of the year. Once more one wonders how Ratner keeps getting hired since clearly his limited directorial vision has been spent.
The film, out now from Paramount Home Entertainment, claims to be inspired by Radical Comics’ The Thracian Wars limited series, but veers far enough from it to be another story entirely. Hercules (Dwayne Johnson), cursed by Zeus’ wife Hera, has completed his twelve labors but remains a lost soul, wandering Earth. Thrace’s King Cotys (John Hurt) and General Sitacles (Peter Mullan) hire him to train their army, preparing it for a forthcoming war against Rheseus’ (Tobias Santelmann) forces. Herc, accompanied by his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), the amazon Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), and Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), and his own nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). Here’s a chance for screenwriters Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos to breathe life into these people, using the late, great Steve Moore’s comics as inspiration. Instead, they come from central casting and the actors do little to make them interesting.
There are some nice moments but they come few and far between mindless, violent action and flat by-the-numbers strorytelling. You are not surprised by the plot twists, robbing you of the cathartic thrills a movie like this should be delivering.
These sword & sandal epics always look great when shot right and here, the high definition transfer is crisp, clean, and colorful. It is equally paired with the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless soundtrack.
Among the extras is an extended cut that adds about three more minutes of vapid stuff, so you wonder why they bothered. Ratner and Producer Beau Flynn provide an audio commentary that acknowledges the dozens of previous screen incarnations and pays too little attention to the Radical publication. There’s An Introduction (5:32) from Ratner and Johnson; Hercules and His Mercenaries (11:07), which explores the supporting cast; Weapons! (5:24); The Bessi Battle (11:54), showcase the preparation going into filming the battle; The Effects of Hercules (12:28); and an entertaining assortment of Deleted/Extended Scenes (15 clips, 14:38).